Nneoma Ugwu Awarded Helene M. Overly Scholarship

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Nneoma Ugwu, a doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Maryland, has been named the 2020-2021 recipient of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) Helene M. Overly Memorial Scholarship.

This international scholarship, awarded annually to one graduate student, aims to encourage women to pursue career paths in transportation.

“I am so honored and excited to be awarded the Helen M. Overly International Memorial Scholarship by WTS,” Ugwu said. “This scholarship will go a long way in supporting my research on the impacts of Covid-19 on transportation as I explore the potential benefits of continued teleworking in order to assist policymakers in their decisions.”

During the past year, Ugwu has been conducting a study designed to quantify how reductions in traffic due to teleworking impact congestion—a topic inspired by changes to traffic patterns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Research by the Maryland Transportation Institute has revealed that as little as a 15% reduction in traffic translates into nearly free-flow on otherwise very congested roadways.

Ugwu is researching the broader impacts of this finding, including how lower traffic volumes affect individual roadway segments, planned projects, and tolled facilities. In addition, she is examining equity issues around how reductions in roadway volumes impact low-income communities, and what longer-term trends might emerge if the reductions continue.

 “She is able to work from the basic single project to the larger system in which the project operates. This is truly a valuable skill,” said Clark Distinguished Chair Deb Niemeier, Ugwu’s advisor.

Ugwu said her interests as a researcher have been shaped by experiences in her native country, Nigeria.

“My passion for transportation stems from experiencing firsthand the crippling effect of poor transportation systems and planning on a nation’s economy and growth. I’m so happy that my dedication to providing equitable transportation systems and using transportation as a tool to alleviate poverty is being recognized,” she said.

“I hope my work and successes encourage more diversity especially for women in the world of transportation,” she said.


Published May 4, 2021